Updated: Aug 13, 2020
You take pride in multitasking, don't you? But when it comes to your evolution it should be a linear sequential progression. Why?
Aren't you a proud multitasker?
Most of you are. Very much.
Though when it comes to your transformation you suddenly go, no no no, not all at once, not from all sides, please, please, please, one way at a time, please beat me up on one side at a time. You think Universe listens to you? Since the day you are born you grow in all directions simultaneously isn't it? Or did your kidney, liver wait for you to shed skin first? Or did your nails, hairs wait for your pancreas to be fully grown first? No! All layers of your body grow simultaneously. You transform inside out and outside in simultaneously. This is how evolution works. Transformation happens in all layers of your existence. Though you may not be able to cognize it, because your mind, your awareness is limited and in a way, it is very good, else most of you may not be able to decide what to grow first, Heart or Liver?
The choice would have been even more difficult in case of Mind or Body :-).
Also, what you are not able to cognize is that other than the physical body, you also have an energy body, mental/emotional body, wisdom body and a bliss body/sheath/layer.
Done looking at those traditional boring images to understand the Pancha Kosha (Five layers/sheaths/body) system? Here is a different image, different perspective.
Annamaya Kosha - Physical Body - See the image, it's all about sensory pleasure mostly, isn't it?
Pranamaya Kosha - Energy Body - Shy, hiding, most of you have troubled, shallow breathing, isn't it?
Manomaya Kosha - Mental/Emotional Body - Most of the time busy making a bold statement. Notice the look on the face. See the attitude in the body, I don't care sort of.
Vigyanmaya Kosha - Wisdom Body - Hidden, not accessible to most of you.
Anandamaya Kosha - Bliss Body - What to say? A Spirit dancing in bliss.
When does one start on their Spiritual Path?
When #Vairagya (Non-Attachment) & #Vivek (Pure Discrimination- Function of Pure Intellect/Buddhi) arises in Vigyanamaya Kosha. In other words when Jnana/Gyan/Wisdom arises through pure Intellect/Buddhi in the #Vigyanmaya Kosha. When Ignorance/Agyan/Illusion/Maya is reduced.
When this sheath, body-layer becomes pure, conscious, a True Seeker is born.
Going forward this layer keeps the Seeker's path illumined through wisdom received from an inner Guru or the outer one. The work here is not done until the Seeker is Self-Realized. You don't switch off the Torch until your journey in the deep, dark, unknown terrain is over. Jnana Yoga is in constant progression through Vigyanmaya Kosha until one is Home! Pursuits to strengthen Wisdom (Vairagya & Vivek) and purify Vigyanmaya Kosha are part of #JnanaYoga.
As a result of Vigyanamaya Kosha becoming pure & alive, one's Pranamaya Kosha, Energy Body starts becoming purer and stronger. Energy, Kundalini starts rising. Chakras start reflecting Vasanas at Manomaya Kosha level and Annamaya Kosha Level. Once blockages are removed from those two Koshas, Chakras balance themselves here in #Pranamaya Kosha. Kriya Yoga is in constant progression through Pranamaya Kosha until Kundalini reaches Crown Chakra and stays there, establishes itself there. When it never comes down and as a result Ego/I dies in Manomaya Kosha that is Self-Realization. Pursuits to strengthen & purify Pranamaya Kosha are part of #KriyaYoga.
As a result of Vigyanamaya Kosha becoming pure & alive, one starts distancing from their Physical Body/Annamaya Kosha, from the games of pleasure through senses. Sanctity is brought in actions, speech, hearing, touch, taste and seeing. Senses are bondage, Seeker starts seeing that. Every time one indulges into sensory pleasures, the futility of it hurts real bad emotionally. One's actions through #Annamaya Kosha starts becoming pure, non-selfish. The physical body is kept in a good condition through Yoga, Asanas, deeds. Seeker starts losing doer-ship and Karma Yoga is in constant progression through Annamaya Kosha until a Seeker is Self-Realized. Pursuits to strengthen & purify Annamaya Kosha and removing the sensory bondage are part of #KarmaYoga.
As a result of Vigyanamaya Kosha becoming pure & alive, one's Mind and Emotions, Manomaya Kosha starts changing. What was pleasurable until last night becomes a source of pain by the morning. One by one all identities, roles starts becoming visible as a separate object. Seeker becomes the observer of his/her emotions and the drama. All Vasanas starts revealing themselves. By and by #Manomaya Kosha starts becoming pure. Seeker starts losing all that he/she is not. One starts losing oneself. Jnana/Wisdom start whispering - you are done, you are gone, you are no more, you are nothing, nothing, nothing. Then Surrender happens, #Bhakti/#Devotion arises in Manomaya Kosha. Because Manomaya Kosha is the place for Ego/I/Identities/Vasanas, it hurts like hell. Bhakti Yoga is in constant progression through Manomaya Kosha, until Seeker is consumed and his/her separate, individual existence is no more. Though it may take a lot of time, years to remove #Vasanas and #Surrender in Devotion and then one may burn for weeks, months, years in Devotion. Vasanas belong to Ego/I, they are not something dangling in mid-air. Pursuits to remove Vasanas, Ego, Identities, I, from Manomaya Kosha and feel the burning and surrender are part of #BhaktiYog.
Bhakti is the last stage before Enlightenment/Self-Realization. Would you die for anything else but Love? Would you die for Wisdom (Jnana), Energy(Kriya) or Physical body (Karma)? No! As a human one lives for love and dies only for love. It could be love for something or someone or oneself or Soul, but it is love that we choose to die for. It is in love that surrender happens. Ego/Mind prevents surrender to anyone/anything but Love. It's Love that makes Ego/Mind blind. It is Devotion/Bhakti that dissolves the Ego/Mind. Except for love, Ego won't kneel down and surrender for anything/anyone. If devotion has started burning you, know that your end is near. Though, before you end, you will burn like crazy. Flames go higher right before they annihilate and become eternal.
Where is the start and where is the end?
Jnana/Gyan/Wisdom = Vairagya (Non-Attachment) + Vivek (Pure Discrimination). Yes, starting fire is lit in Vigyanamaya Kosha and this Kosha works like a Torch and stays "on" throughout the spiritual journey of a Seeker. This fire purifies Annamaya Kosha, changes the cellular biology, nervous system, neural pathways in brain and DNA. It strengthens Pranamaya Kosha, awakens and raises the Kundalini. And finally dissolves everything in Manomaya Kosha when it becomes Bhakti, and becomes the Eternal Flame. So you see Jnana/Gyan/Wisdom is like "eyes" for you to see where you are going. A Guru can increase vision in your eyes from time to time, but a Guru is not a replacement for your eyes. In other words, Guru cannot give you Vairagya & Vivek. That is what you awaken by yourself. Brahmakara-Vritti has to arise in you, before a Guru can help you.
One may argue that Kundalini Shakti arises first and then Jnana/Wisdom (Vairagya & Vivek) happens. But no, that is not correct. Those in whom Kundalini Shakti awakens, but Vairagya and Vivek are missing, they become Shaktas, players of Shakti. Their energy matures and is Enlightened, but they are not Self-Realized. Their Ego/I/Mind doesn't die because they haven't got "eyes" (Jnana/Wisdom) to be able to see what they are doing, where they are going. Remember, Jesus on the cross said - Father, forgive them as they know not, what they are doing (something like that). What did it mean? Blind Power is dangerous. What tells you what you are doing should be done or not? Buddhi/Intellect/Wisdom/Jnana/Vivek. Without Vairagya one never knows the true purpose of Shakti, and never becomes Shiva. So, one can't be Self-Realized without that.
So you see, all four body layers of yours are transformed simultaneously, all four types of Yog/Unions happens within you and it stays that way until the end.
The more these four Koshas starts becoming purified the more you feel your fifth layer, #Anandamaya Kosha. It starts becoming more and more conscious & alive. One day you break all Koshas and you are out. You are out of all gross, subtle, causal dimensions, body layers of yours and become Nobody who has no body/boundary/limitation. You Realize the Self.
What is this fuss about? Choosing & Walking a particular path
If I ask you to describe "adult/physical adulthood", what will you say? That it means mature mind & emotions, it means mature genitals, functional reproductive system, muscle mass, increased height, weight, body size, hairs wherever. Means you will take "all layers, all systems" of your physical body into consideration when you describe an adult.
Similarly, when it comes to Union/Yog (Spiritual maturity/adulthood), you can't leave one or more layers of your existence out of the equation. You can't say I will only do Jnana Yoga because Kundalini/Kriya scares the hell out of me. You can't say, I am not a lovey-dovey type and can't do Bhakti. You can't say I don't like reading scriptures, books, or intellectual stuff, so I am not made for Jnana Yoga. I won't marry or have relationships because I am doing Karma Yoga. All this is nonsense, created by Mental Spiritualists (Read the last heading of this article). You can't leave the Yog/Union out of the equation in any layer of your body. Your existence as a whole matures and becomes integrated. And as a Whole (Atma/Soul) you go into Union with Supreme Consciousness (Paramatma).
You may not practice Kriya Yoga specially but that doesn't mean your Kundalini won't be raised & established in Crown when you are Self-Realized. You may not practice Bhakti/Devotion explicitly, but that doesn't mean Devotion won't happen to you and without it and without Surrender you can be Self-Realized. You may not read books or scriptures, but that doesn't mean Jnana/Wisdom was not lighting up your path all the way to Self-Realization. You may not understand Karma Yoga, but that doesn't mean the "Doer/Experiencer/Bhogi is not dead" by the time you are Self-Realized.
You also need to understand that Kriya is dependent upon Jnana, Bhakti is dependent upon Kriya and Jnana both and Karma is dependent upon all. None of them works alone, none of them happens alone, none of them is of any use alone, for the purpose of Self-Realization. Your nervous system is dependent upon muscle system which is dependent on skeletal system and external limbs are dependent on all of that. All systems in you are interdependent, for the purpose of maturity/growth. Bhakti without Jnana is like having full mental & emotional maturity & ego in a six years old child. Kriya/Shakti without Jnana is like having a fully developed body and reproductive system with a mind of six years old. It's a disaster, its a retarded situation.
How can you walk one path only and expect others not to happen to you? How can you grow just one body layer/system and leave others undeveloped? What kind of a Being are you trying to be?
So you see, it's not at all about walking a particular path. Such things comes to the mind of those for whom spiritual journey is a mental/egoistical feat. Your growth is HOLISTIC and should be treated as such. Don't try to choose between growing Heart and not Kidneys.
Wrong Starting Point
Sadly, in a lot of people these days Spiritual Journey starts at "Manomaya Kosha". Means due to fears, personal gains, or mental/logical reasons they pursue the Spiritual path. The light is "off" in their Vigyanmaya Kosha. Eyes are closed.
These people do not understand what "Vairagya & Renunciation" are? They have all confusing notions about them. Because you see, they happen in Vigyanmaya Kosha and are understood only by the Pure Intellect there. Vairagya & Renunciation are beyond the understanding of mind/ego.
Such people also believe that they can attend Satsang, do Bhakti (La la bhajan singing, pooja, rituals) and that will take them to God. How? Bhakti is Blind without Vairagya & Vivek/Buddhi/Pure Intellect. Such people do lots of mental gymnastic about Sacred/Scriptural Wisdom and they firmly believe that, that is what Jnana/Gyan/Wisdom is. No! Again, they are blind.
Wisdom is beyond Mind/Ego, beyond Manomaya Kosha. These people love to do good deeds, stress a lot on good actions and they think that is Karma Yoga. How? Blind Karma doesn't result in any kind of Yoga/Yog/Union at all.
So just because such people are doing Pranayama, Yoga and going to Satsang and chanting Mantra, ritualizing Yantra, learning Tantra and have taken Initiation that doesn't mean they are True Seekers. Their seeking will not end up in Enlightenment or Self-Realization. There is no harm in living healthy, thinking healthy and doing good deeds, but mind it, you are not going towards Self-Realization, because you are still moving horizontally. While True Seeking is a Vertical catapultation (I keep creating new words on my own to make life easier).
Until eyes are open, means Vairagya and Vivek have been awakened in Vigyanmaya Kosha, you are not going to see the Real World. Until then you are blind-walking, who knows where.
Till the time fire hasn't been lit in your Vigyanamaya Kosha you ain't going anywhere baby. Enjoy!